Tag Archives: findmypast.co.uk

News: Canterbury Cathedral records to go online at findmypast.co.uk

29 Jan

The most exciting news for me this week was the announcement from findmypast.co.uk that they are going to be digitizing parish records from the Archdeaconry of Canterbury.

Starting “in the coming weeks” the website will be adding the Canterbury Collection to its existing collection of parish register records. This has been timed to coincide with the temporary closure of their current home, Canterbury Cathedral Archives.

Initially the collection will consist of just browsable images, but the records will ultimately be transcribed and an index provided “later this year”.

I have written several times about my difficulties in researching in Kent, so this marks a great step forward for me. The county of Kent has been under-represented online until now and although most of my interests are further west nearer the Sussex border (the Archdeaconry of Canterbury covers eastern Kent) I am sure this is going to prove a valuable asset in my research.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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What’s in it for me: Merchant Navy seamen records on Findmypast.co.uk

6 Sep

Findmypast.co.uk have recently released another new record collection, the Merchant Navy seamen 1918-1941 records which contains image of index cards from The National Archives series BT348, BT349 and BT350. According to The National Archives the cards were part of the CR2 Central Indexed Register kept by the Registrar General of Shipping and Seaman and “each card typically gives the following information: discharge A number; certificate of company number; name of seaman; year and place of birth; rank or rating; name and official number of ship and date of engagement of service. Frequently, on the reverse of the card, can be found a list of the vessels on which the crewman served.”

According to the Findmypast.co.uk news release,

It is possible to find a photograph of your ancestor within these records. These rarely seen photos of the mariners mean you can see what your seafaring ancestor looked like for the first time – a real achievement for any family historian.

You can find out more about researching merchant seaman in The National Archives research guide on the subject.

So what’s in it for me…

The short answer is nothing or at least nothing yet. As far as I can remember there are only two people in my family tree who made their living from the sea, if you don’t count those who served during the two World Wars, and they were serving with the Royal Navy.

After a few preliminary searches I have been unable to identify anyone in the collection who might be a relative, but I am sure eventually someone will come out of the woodwork who might be in this collection.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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What’s in it for me: Militia records on Findmypast.co.uk

29 Jun

Findmypast.co.uk have recently released a new record collection, the Militia Attestation Papers 1806-1915, containing indexed images from The National Archives series WO96. According to The National Archives website:

The Militia was a part-time voluntary force. It was organised by county and existed mainly to help defend Britain and Ireland.

Modern militias were created by the Militia Act of 1757 and have been through many changes since. They were absorbed into the Territorial Army in 1908.

These records only contain details for other ranks and not officers. According to the findmypast news article the records were created when the men joined up and “were annotated until the solider was discharged so provide full details of time in service. And, since the militia recruits were part-time, there are details of the jobs the men undertook for the rest of the time.”

Like other service records there was a medical examination involved in the attestation process so the records include a physical description of the individual including details of height, weight, chest measurement, complexion, eye colour, hair colour and distinctive marks, and marks indicating congenital peculiarities or previous disease.

So what’s in it for me…

This collection is one of those collections that I will need to go back to time and time again, as you never know who might have spent time in the militia, so anyone of the right age will need to be checked.

Some initial searches however did turn up a couple of interesting GASSON entries. I wasn’t really expecting to find either of them although one was more unexpected than the other.

The records were for two of my 2x great-uncles George GASSON and William James GASSON. Although they were brothers they don’t seem to have signed up together and their army careers were quite different.

George GASSON spent six years in the militia, and spent some time in South Africa. William James on the other hand was only briefly in the militia before transferring to the regular army. I knew that William James had spent time in the army from his First World War service record which showed he had served prior to 1914.

Tragically William James died in 1915, and is remembered on the war memorial in the church at Sayers Common, West Sussex. I have no idea whether George GASSON served during the First World War, I would think he probably did, but I need to check that.

When they attested they both listed their mother (Mary Ann GASSON) as their next of kin and not their father George Thomas GASSON who was by that time in an asylum. The interesting thing is they both give her address as Little Leigh Cottages, an address which I haven’t come across before.

I haven’t been able to locate where Little Leigh Cottages were/are yet. One entry records this as being in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex and the other as Cuckfield, Sussex. Perhaps it is somewhere between the two or maybe one is a postal address, with letters being directed to a nearer Post Office in a different parish. I can’t find it on any recent maps, so I may have to spend more time working on locating this one.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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NEWS: Over 1.4 million new Hampshire parish records published on findmypast.co.uk

30 Mar

Findmypast.co.uk have been steadily adding parish register transcriptions to their website, but until now there hasn’t really been much to get me excited. That was until last night when I read the news that they had added over 1.4 million Hampshire parish records.

This is great news for my research, having online access to these records is going to be a great boost to my research and especially for tracing my MITCHELL ancestors. Of course these are only transcriptions and would need checking against the original parish register entries, but they represent a great finding aid and starting point.

These records are the work of the Hampshire Genealogical Society and I suspect they are the same records that they publish on CD, which I have previously used at the Hampshire Record Office. Ironically I was very close to buying a couple of the CDs at Who Do You Think You Are? Live last month, but decided I couldn’t justify the cost.

According to the website the collection features:

  • 574,192 baptisms (covering the period 1752 to 1851)
  • 153,011 marriages (covering the period 1754 to 1837)
  • 720,468 burials (covering the period 1400 to 1841)

Links to lists of the actual parishes included can also be found on the announcement page on the website. The cost to view the full entry appears to be 5 credits each or free for those with a subscription.

Electoral registers making the news

10 Mar

Electoral registers have featured in recent announcements from the UK’s two main genealogy websites. Findmypast.co.uk are working with the British Library to digitize historical registers whilst Ancestry.co.uk have teamed up with Peopletracer to provide a Living Relative search.

I haven’t been able to find a decent description of UK electoral registers online (if you know of one let me know), but they were established after the Reform Act of 1832 and listed those entitled to vote, initially very few people were listed but numbers grew after subsequent Acts of Parliament until they essentially became a list of almost every household in the UK.

After 2002 voters were able to opt-out of having their names in the edited version of the register (which is available to everyone) although they still remained in the full version (which is available to certain agencies). This means that after 2002 there are fewer people on the edited (public) register but it can still be a useful tool but it can still be a useful tool when it comes to tracing living relatives.

The announcement from Findmypast means that historical registers will become a lot more accessible, and I mean a lot more accessible. You really have to have a pretty good idea of where someone was living before you can find them, otherwise you have a mammoth task ahead of you. digitization and indexing will make these records a lot more accessible and useful.

The new Living Relative Search on Ancestry.co.uk enables members ten searches per day with a free preview of the basic results. Credits can be purchased to get access to more detailed results although from what I have seen the basic results are pretty detailed already. Information is drawn from edited electoral registers from 2003 to 2011, telephone directory records and land registry records. It should be added that this service is not unique, there are several other organisations offering similar services (including one available through Findmypast).

Finding Mary MITCHELL in the 1861 census: a lesson learned

3 Mar

I have previously struggled to find my 4x great-grandmother Mary MITCHELL (née SMITH) in the 1861 census. I didn’t really expect to find anything unusual in the entry, but with a surname like SMITH you need to check every record just in case there are any clues to help me find her parents.

I had found Mary in every census from 1841 to 1891 (she died in Q3 1891) except 1861 and was fairly certain that her son William would be living with her. I also knew from other census returns that she was born around 1808 in Cuckfield, Sussex and that she would be a widow in 1861.

I had previously had no luck with Ancestry.co.uk and Findmypast.co.uk but having seen TheGenealogist.co.uk presentation at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011 last weekend and having been impressed by their search facilities I decided it would be a good idea to try searching their indexes.

I had hoped to try out their Family Forename Search, but with the only two names being William and Mary I didn’t fancy my chances (and I wasn’t even sure that William would be with his mother) of finding them easily. A straight-forward search didn’t bring up any entries for Mary MITCHELL, but I did have more luck with William. William MITCHELL was living with his mother and his brother Alfred in Slaugham, Sussex.

Although I had found the entry and could have just left it at that, I wanted to learn why I had struggled to find the family. I felt sure there were valuable lessons to be learned for the future.

Of course I already knew that transcriptions and indexes are not always perfect but in my experience they are usually good enough to find the person you are looking for with a bit of ingenuity and persistence.

In this case one look at the census image was enough to identify the problem, in fairness to the Ancestry and Findmypast transcribers the M at the beginning of the surname does look like a lot like a W to me. Sure enough this is how they had it indexed.

So it looks like TheGenealogist has the best transcription, but not quite. They got the hard bit right (her surname) but got Mary’s first name completely wrong!

Also I am not sure that the address is correct, there is nothing to suggest that the name “Old Pack Farm” should have been carried on to subsequent entries. Then looking at Ancestry’s results it appears that William was born in Balmaclellan, Sussex (I don’t think so).

I wondered if anyone had transcribed the record correctly and remembered that FreeCEN had completed transcribing the 1861 census for Sussex, I wondered what their transcribers had made of it?

Turns out they knew exactly what they were doing, even down to the note on the birth place of William. I was surprised, not that the FreeCEN transcribers got it right, but that they were the only ones that got it right. Of course they don’t have the images for free so I would still have needed to check against one of the other websites.

The lesson for me is that paid for results are not always better than free results (and of course that an M can sometimes look like a W). I have been using FreeBMD for years but totally neglecting FreeCEN (and FreeREG for that matter).

NEWS: Society of Genealogists’ collection now online at findmypast.co.uk

5 Jan

What better way to mark the start of the Society of Genealogists‘ centenary year than with the release of 9 million records from their collection on findmypast.co.uk? If that wasn’t enough, the SoG are now providing free access to findmypast.co.uk (including the 1911 census) for users of their library.

The first batch of records features the following collections:

  • Boyd’s Marriage Index containing over 7 million names from 1538 to 1840
  • Boyd’s London Burials 1538-1872 containing 240,000 names
  • Faculty Office Marriage Licence Allegations 1701-1850
  • St Andrew’s Holborn Marriage Index 1754-1812
  • Vicar-General Marriage Licences Allegations 1694-1850
  • St Leonard Shoreditch Burials 1805-1858 and Workhouse Deaths 1820-1828
  • Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills Index 1750-1800

These records are only indexes or transcripts but in some cases it is possible to order copies of some of the originals from the SoG. Previous collaborations between the two organisations have resulted in the publication online of the Civil Service Evidence of Age and Great Western Railway Shareholder records and according to the press release from findmypast and the SoG there is still more to come:

In the coming weeks further records will be added to the website including Bank of England Wills Extracts containing 60,500 names, including images, and Apprentices of Great Britain containing 350,000 names.

It is great that these records are being released to a wider audience, these and the other collections and resources of the SoG really do deserve to be better known and utilised, personally as a member of the society I am guilty myself of not making the most of these resources.

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